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Blackberry Mom: Shel Silverstein truly inspiring on Astini News

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Learning to think outside the box, draw outside the lines, can lead the way to solving a problem in ways that haven't been tried before. When children learn these lessons they pave the way to a future filled with confidence to reach for the stars.Shutterstock

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& Published: 2:00 AM - 09/25/11& &

Have you ever read Shel Silverstein? I take it back, has anyone not read Shel Silverstein?

Well, as someone who has spent the last year learning to embrace change as my New Year's resolution, Silverstein is my hero, someone who made his mark by developing his very own style of writing and drawing, by doing what felt right. He never learned the rules, and instead made up his own.

Lots of people, far more educated about the topic of education reform than I am, are trying to figure out how to improve the education system in our country. And I wonder, maybe the answer is to teach our kids fewer rules to pass tests showing how much a child has learned, and instead gently encourage children with self-directed learning, to simply discover, as they do in Montessori. Though Silverstein isn't a Montessori graduate, he taught himself to write poetry before he knew there were rules to follow — self-directed discovery at its best. And some of the greatest innovators in recent time (the minds behind Amazon, Wikipedia, and Google) are all Montessori graduates. Can this level of achievement be a coincidence?

I remember learning the simple rule that a poem rhymes. Then my close friend Erika Meitner, now a poet in her own right, introduced to me to the work of Silverstein, sometimes rhyming, sometimes not, always reminding me it's OK and sometimes even good to break the rules.

Silverstein writes entire words in uppercase letters. He makes up his own words to suit his needs. He embodies my desire for my girls to color outside the lines, to have the confidence to reach for the stars, to believe they can accomplish anything they set their minds to. And he exemplifies the drive to go after it.

"Listen to the MUSTN'TS, child.

"Listen to the DON'TS.

"Listen to the SHOULDN'TS


"Listen to the NEVER HAVES

"Then listen close to me —

"Anything can happen, child

"ANYTHING can be."

A weighty message, in a seemingly light poem. A lesson that by breaking the rules, wonderful things can happen. Silverstein teaches us not only by his words but also by his actions. He teaches us anything is possible when someone is willing to challenge the status quo.

His drawings, and the way he plays with upper- and lower-case letters, enable my daughter to feel his story visually even before she can fully understand the meaning of his work. I love his magical command of the English language, and the substantial conversations his simple, out-of-the-box poetry raise.

So, today, on what would have been his 81st birthday, let's all take a moment to appreciate what makes us unique. Let's take a moment to think about how, by coloring outside the lines, we can do something faster, better. Let's take a moment to reach for innovation over repetition.

And let's take a moment to teach our children some of THESE lessons, because with a little encouragement to paint outside the lines, the possibilities are endless for whom your child can be.

Allison Berman, an artist and mother of two, hand paints custom accessories for interior designers and private customers. View her collection at and her blog at

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